Dharamshala budget trip is something every backpacker and mountain lover has on their travel wish list. The small but beautiful hilly town of Dharamshala attracts thousands of travelers every year. This destination is not only popular with Indian travelers but is also one of the most sought after destinations for foreign nationals.
Each year, thousands of travelers visit the Himalayan town of Dharamshala. Due to the increasing crowds, it can be a tad bit expensive to visit the region. However, with the help of a proper itinerary, access to some insider travel information and advance bookings, a budget trip to Dharamshala can be made possible.
In the current travel blog, I will share my stance on how to plan a budget trip to Dharamshala. I will provide my detailed break down of expenses as well as tips to help you save. Also, I will share my ideal three-day itinerary for a fun-filled Dharamshala budget trip. This is going to be useful for travelers visiting the town for the first time.
Dharamshala Budget Trip
Dharamshala is the kind of place that is suited for all kind of travelers. If you are a budget traveler or backpacker like me, you too would want to explore more with less amount of money.
For a place like Dharamshala, it can easily be done. All you need is to stay resourceful as a traveler in the region.
Allocating a set budget is important if you want to fully explore a place. Frivolous spending on things that don’t matter will leave you disappointed at the end. Therefore, having a pre-defined budget helps you spending right.
On days that you want to indulge in fancy eating or maybe pursuing activities that will require you to spend money, your pre-defined budget will help you immensely in diverting the saved money elsewhere.
By the way, there are many other beautiful places in India that can be visited on a low to moderate budget. Anybody passionate about travel should explore these budget places and plan a trip there this holiday season.
Cost Breakdown for Visiting Dharamshala on a Budget
Assuming that you are in Dharamshala for at least three days (that was the duration of my first trip), you can easily manage to explore around with a nominal budget.
Let me share the cost breakdown for you based on my own travel experience.
399 INR ($ 5.73) to 999 INR ($ 14.35) per day if you choose to stay at a budget hotel or a backpacker hostel.
100 INR ($ 1.43) for a meal at a small eatery and 350 INR ($ 5.02) for a fancy meal at a plush café or restaurant.
300 INR ($ 4.30) per serving. This is one expense you can totally avoid.
250 INR ($ 3.59) via Auto, 10 INR ($ 0.14) via bus and 400 INR ($ 5.74) via cab per day.
788 INR ($ 11.31) via Himachal Pradesh Tourism bus from New Delhi to Dharamshala. A seat on a flight between New Delhi to the nearest airport at Ghaggal will cost you around 5000 INR ($ 71.75). Train from New Delhi to nearest railway station at Pathankot will cost you between 195 INR ($ 2.50) to 750 INR ($ 10.76) depending on the class you’re traveling in as a passenger.
20 INR for Indians and 50 to 100 INR for foreign nationals ($ 0.72 to 1.43) is the entry fee at a few places. Other places are free of cost.
Free of cost
Trekking till Triund Hill
600 INR ($ 8.61) if you trek on your own. 1500 INR ($ 21.52) if you hire a tent provider and a guide.
Free of cost
Adventure sports like paragliding
2500 INR ($35.87) for a thirty-minute flight in the air.
20 INR ($ 0.29) to 400 INR ($5.74) for a native souvenir from Dharamshala.
Note: The exchange rate value in brackets have been made in US Dollars ($) and outside in Indian Rupees (INR). The values placed were in accordance with the exchange rate at the time of my trip. The current rates can increase or decrease by around five points. During my trip, 1 US Dollar was equal to 69.69 INR.
If you are a first time visitor and want to indulge in a good Dharamshala budget trip, you should be aware of the important things that will affect you.
To aid you, I will dig deep into the various travel aspects that will help you plan your trip well.
Accommodation for a Dharamshala Budget Trip
One of the nicest things about Dharamshala is the range of budget accommodation it provides to travelers. Not only are these places to stay comfortable but only hygienic.
I’ve noticed that accommodation around main Dharamshala town is the most expensive, and that around Dharamkot is the most inexpensive. So, try booking a place of stay between Mcleodganj and Dharamkot. The views are the most spectacular here and the cost very less.
I would also recommend travelers to stay at Mcleodganj and Dharamkot instead of the main Dharamshala town. Some of the most credible places to stay in my experience are Zostel in Mcleodganj, Sky Pie Guest House near Bhagsu Nag, and OYO 31120 Hotel Royale.
You can opt for hostels, inns, guest houses and budget hotels. Since a lot of backpackers from around the world visit Dharamshala, they mostly bunk in hostels and inns where the washrooms are common. Make sure to confirm beforehand that the room you’d be staying in has a separate washroom unless you don’t mind sharing washrooms.
I usually book hotels from Agoda because I feel it is credible as far as reviewing hotels in concerned. Also, the deals it offers for backpackers like me are quite good. If you feel like it, you can book from Agoda as well. If not, choose a credible website and only then, make a decision for your stay.
Please choose a decent accommodation especially if you’re on your own. Dharamshala is a super safe place but even then stay alert at all times. It’s for your own benefit.
|Accommodation on an average will cost you a mere 399 INR ($ 5.73) to 999 INR ($ 14.35) per day at any of the above places depending on the season.|
Food and Eateries Around Dharamshala
There is a whole variety of food options available at Dharamshala and McLeodganj. Cafes, eateries and restaurants in Dharamshala have a huge variety to offer in Indian, Chinese, Tibetan and continental cuisines. You can also find Lebanese and Japanese cuisines in some of the cafes at Mcleodganj.
Dharamshala also comprises of some nice bakeries that serve fresh bread in many forms. Both Dharamshala and Mcleodganj have decent eating places. Some are rooftop places while others are with attached balconies.
If you are a food lover, you will fall in love with Dharamshala and McLeodganj. The food here is a treat to the palate. I won’t be exaggerating if I say I could go back to Mcleodganj just for the cafes and food.
Some of the best places to eat in Dharamshala in my experience are Chilly Beans Cafe, Moonlight cafe, Food by the Way, Shop Number 4, Salvation Cafe, Tibetian Kitchen and German Bakery.
While at these places, do try out the steamed mutton momos, open eggplant sandwich, chocolate ball ice cream, fish curry, north Indian cuisine, Bhagsu cake, avocado toast, choco-chip pancake, fresh fruit juices, Bhutanese cuisine and Israeli cuisine.
One place that you must visit on your Dharamshala budget trip is the holy kitchen for the monks of the Dalai Lama temple. At about noon, when the monks sit down to eat, seek their permission and savour a meal together. It will turn out to be a fulfilling experience.
|A local meal at a small eatery will cost you around 100 INR ($ 1.43) and that at a fancy cafe will cost you around 350 INR ($ 5.02).|
Is Consuming Drinks a Good Option on your Dharamshala Budget Trip?
Try fresh juices at the eateries in Dharamshala especially apple juice. Apple is the state fruit of Himachal Pradesh and so its juice should be tasted while you’re in the state.
Avoid alcohol based drinks. They will end up costing you more and will topple your pre-defined budget.
|Even the most cheap cocktail will cost you above 300 INR ($ 4.30) per serving.|
Transportation Options for and in Dharamshala
As a traveler, you will be spending on internal and external transportation. The cost will be minimal for internal transport but external transport can cost you more if you choose to travel via flight.
Within Dharamshala, you can take a bus from the main bus stand at Dharamshala till Mcleodganj for a mere 10 INR ($ 0.14). Within Mcleodganj, you can walk easily. The trails there make up for leisurely walks amidst nature.
You can also opt for auto rickshaws but make sure you board one before 4 pm. Post that, the auto wallahs (auto drivers) get lazy and won’t agree to show you around.
You can also hire a cab but it will prove to be expensive if you’re traveling solo. If you’re in a group, then can can be a decent option.
Now speaking of options for reaching Dharamshala – you can choose to travel here via road, rail or plane. Buses and railways are both nominal but flights will cost you a lot.
Only Air India and Spice Jet offer plane services to Dharamshala from India’s capital New Delhi. So the cost is really high. Personally, I don’t prefer traveling to Dharamshala via flights but if you want to opt for one, try booking through Skyscanner. The prices there are lower than other websites.
Transportation for and in Dharamshala: An Overview
|Internal transport per day will not cost you more than 250 INR ($ 3.59) via Auto, 10 INR ($ 0.14) via bus and 400 INR ($ 5.74) via cab.
External transport will cost you around 788 INR ($ 11.31) via Himachal Pradesh Tourism bus from New Delhi to Dharamshala.
If you’re traveling via train, the nearest stop will be Pathankot and the fare from New Delhi ranges between 195 INR ($ 2.50) to 750 INR ($ 10.76) depending on the class you’re traveling in. From Pathankot, an HRTC (Himachal Road Transportation Corporation) bus till Dharamshala will cost you around 170 INR.
The most expensive mode of external transport will be a flight till Ghaggal (nearest airport to Dharamshala). A seat on a flight between New Delhi and Ghaggal will cost you around 5000 INR ($ 71.75).
Dharamshala Budget Trip: Sightseeing
Sightseeing will prove to be really cheap in Dharamshala. Most places have a nominal entry fee or none at all. The only cost you will incur will be the transportation cost to reach a specified place.
Since Dharamshala is a hilly region, make sure to venture out in nature by yourself.
|Staying amidst nature will cost you nothing. Most sightseeing places have an entry fee around 20 INR for Indians and 50 to 100 INR for foreign nationals ($ 0.72 to 1.43)|
Hiking in and around Dharamshala
Just like sightseeing, hiking won’t cost you much.
I mean as a traveler, you are allowed to venture out in the wild for free. Since the fresh air, the native wildlife and the positivity.
Don’t fall prey to bogus package providers whose only aim will be to rip your wallet. Instead, pursue hiking on your own. The woods and mountains are all yours.
|If you love nature, go hiking from Mcleodganj till Bhagsu Falls. It won’t cost you a thing.|
Trekking till Triund Hill
One of the easiest treks to pursue around Dharamshala is the Triund Trek.
You can either go for a package that can be booked online or carry your own sleeping bag and rent a tent when you reach on the top of Triund.
Personally, I feel it is better to rent a tent once you reach on top. You can also ask any tent provider to make arrangements for food as well.
|Renting a tent will cost you around 600 INR ($ 8.61) whereas going for an online booked package tour will cost you more than 1500 INR ($ 21.52).|
Camping in and around Dharamshala
If you like to camp, carry your own tent, sleeping bag and warm clothes to Triund Hill. Camp there overnight. Once you reach there, seek food from any provider there. It will cost you around 200 INR ($ 2.87).
However, you can also choose to camp anywhere in the wild, on your own risk, of course. It’ll prove to be a fun experience. Make sure you don’t loiter the place when you leave.
|It will cost you nothing to camp in the wild.|
Adventure sports near Dharamshala
If you are one of those travelers that like to feel the adrenaline rush, try paragliding in Dharamshala. It will help you get out of your comfort zone.
A decent place to go paragliding is at Bir Billing in Dharamshala. However, it is located at about 2.5 hours from the main town of Dharamshala. So, it will be difficult to accommodate it if you’re on a tight schedule.
If at all, you want to go paragliding, stay a day in Bir itself and then enjoy the place and paragliding there.
|A thirty-minute flight in the air while paragliding will cost you around 2500 INR ($35.87).|
Shopping on your Dharamshala Budget Trip
As a budget traveler, avoid spending more money on frivolous shopping. If at all you want to buy stuff, go only for souvenirs.
These souvenirs will remind you of the lovely time spent in Dharamshala.
|A souvenir from Dharamshala will cost you anywhere between 20 INR ($ 0.29) to 400 INR ($5.74).|
Dharamshala is a beautiful town in the north Indian state of Himachal Pradesh. It lies on the upper reaches of the Kangra valley and smells of enchantment. The snow-clad Dhauladhar peaks add to its beauty.
Dharamshala is also the seat of His Holiness – The Dalai Lama. The place is full of Tibetan prayer flags, rolling wheels and a whiff of romanticism. It offers a plethora of picturesque views to its visitors.
This hilly town is also the second capital of Himachal Pradesh – summer capital to be more precise.
What Should be the Must Visit Places on Your Dharamshala Budget Trip Itinerary?
There are a few places should most certainly be on your Dharamshala budget trip itinerary. The only cost you will incur is to reach there by a respective transport option.
It needs to be mentioned here that a trip to Dharamshala should cover Mcleodganj as well. Dharamshala to Mcleodganj distance is only about 6 km. You can reach McLeodganj from Dharamshala by taking a local bus (Fare 10 INR) or a cab ( Fare 200-300 INR)
Let me now mention the places that should be a part of your Dharamshala budget trip itinerary.
Dal lake is a small lake on the outskirts of the main town surrounded by plenty of pine trees. Now don’t confuse it with the famous Dal Lake in Srinagar having houseboats, Kashmir.
The green vegetation and the blue water is a treat to the eyes. However, lately, the lake hasn’t been maintained very well. So take your call whether you want to pay it a visit or not. If you are visiting Naddi, you will cross this lake on the way.
Entry fee: Free
Timing: 8:00 am to 8:00 pm
The Kangra Art Museum
This museum was inaugurated in the year 1990. It is situated very close to the town’s bus station. This place has a storehouse of artefacts that date back to the past centuries.
It has a treasure trove of things with very high cultural and aesthetic value that includes paintings, carvings, sculptures, old jewellery, pottery, coins, etc.
It is not a very big place to wander but definitely among the must-visit places to visit in Dharamshala.
Entry fee: 10 INR for Indians; 50 INR for foreign nationals
Timings: 10:00 am to 1:30 pm & 2:00 pm to 5:00 pm
Spread across a vast area of land and surrounded by the surreal beauty of nature is the War Memorial in Dharamshala. It is situated within the military area and has a big lush green park of pine trees and shrubs with ponds.
This is a memorial where names of martyrs are mentioned in memory of their contribution to the nation and in honour of their bravery.
It is a recollection of all the war heroes who fought courageously for their motherland and sacrificed their lives.
Entry fee: 20 INR
Timings: 10:00 am to 5:00 pm
The Himachal Pradesh Cricket Association (HPCA) stadium is one of the most beautiful and colourful cricket stadiums of the Indian subcontinent. The snow-peaked mountains are easily visible as its backdrop.
Domestic matches including Ranji Trophy and Indian Premier League are hosted by it.
This famous Indian cricket stadium can accommodate around 23000 people at one time. This stadium also happens to be the home ground Stadium for the renowned IPL team Kings XI Punjab.
Whether or not you are a cricket fan, this is a must-visit place on your Dharamshala Budget Trip.
Entry fee: Free
Timings: 9 am to 6 pm
Located on the outskirts of Dharamshala is the culturally rich Norbulingka Institute. This place is dedicated to the integrity of Tibetan artistic traditions. The authorities here ensure that these traditions are maintained for generations to come.
You can (rather, should) ask for a guided tour here. At the end of the tour, travelers can pay obeisance to the temple, Deden Tsuklagkhang, a magnificent example of Tibetan religious architecture, displaying some of the finest work done by Norbulingka artists.
It’s a fine place to regain your inner peace. You can also pick up some souvenirs on your way out.
Entry fee: 20 INR for Tibetians, 50 INR for Indians, 100 INR for foreign nationals
Timings: 9 am to 5 pm
Trekkers love Triund. This trek has become one of the most sought after in North India among beginners and enthusiasts. The starting point of the triund trek is Galu but you can opt for alternative locations as well – Mcleodganj, Bhagsu Nag etc. From Galu, the entire trek is beautiful. Once you reach Triund, you might as well camp there. It’s worth it.
If you are feeling a little more adventurous, you could adventure beyond Triund Hill to the Lahesh Caves.
For those of you who cannot hike, hire a pony or a horse but just visit this place. During monsoons, the clouds seem to be settling down under and the misty weather just soaks you completely.
The trekking route is closed in the winter months of January and February.
Entry fee: 1000 to 3000 INR
Timings: Any time between sunrise and sunset.
If you’re a hiking lover, do visit Bhagsu Falls. However, make sure to visit them only during the monsoons. During the rest of the seasons, they may run dry.
The view around Bhagsu Falls is good and the locale is a lovely reminder to gentle nature.
You can also pay a visit to the Bhagsunath temple on the way to the Falls. There are also a number of cafes in Bhagsu that serve great food! You can grab a bite in one of them.
A small eatery that goes by the name of Shive Cafe is located right above the Falls. Stop by for snacks. They make decent Pizzas and milkshakes.
Entry fee: Free
Timings: Any time of the day
The Dalai Lama Temple
This is the best place to visit on your Dharamshala budget trip. A 15-minute walk from the bus stand in Mcleodganj leads you here.
This sanctimonious place is open daily from sunrise to sunset. Travelers are welcome to explore its serene ambience. Once you enter the temple, you will notice hundreds of people sitting on the floor praying and chanting. You too, can join the prayers or walk around and explore the unique artwork in the temple.
Make sure to visit the Tibetan Museum which is just adjacent to the Dalai Lama temple.
Ideal Itinerary for an Exciting Dharamshala Budget Trip
If you are travelling to Dharamshala for the first time, you need at least three days to explore the most important locations in Dharamshala.
Since most people visiting Dharamshala spend at least 3 days in the region, I will share a good three-day itinerary for Dharamshala with you. I followed it on my first trip and will offer it as a suggestion to you as well.
Plan your trip in such a way that you reach Dharamshala early morning. This will save you an entire day.
Check-in your accommodation place. Freshen up and take a brief nap. After you feel relaxed, have breakfast.
Try eating at one of the budget eateries. There are tons in both Dharamshala and Mcleodganj.
| Early Noon
After a savoury meal, head to Norbulingka. A lot of travelers miss this place and head to Mcleodganj first. But I insist you start your trip here.
Once you’ve explored the place, head up to Mcleodganj. Stop by for lunch here.
Being a hilly terrain, the region might exhaust you. Therefore, it is important that you relax while having lunch.
|Afternoon & Evening
After enjoying lunch, head to the local sightseeing places – The Dalai Lama Temple, Dal Lake, St. John’s Church in the Wilderness and Naddi Village where you can enjoy a beautiful sunset. The Naddi village is a walking distance from the Lake.
You can also do some souvenir shopping near Dalai Lama Temple later in the evening.
By 7:30 or maximum by 8:00, you should be having dinner and should be close to your place of accommodation.
This is important because you’re tired and need to replenish your energy for the next day.
Sleep by 9:00 pm.
After a good night’s sleep, get ready for a fresh climb. This is true literally because you should be heading to Triund peak.
Head to Mcleodganj (in case you’re staying far from it). Have breakfast before 8:30 am and head out.
Walk up to Dharamkot or take an auto. After Dharamkot, reach Shri Galu Devi temple (about 2 km).
If you have booked the Triund trek online, you’ll be asked to report at one of the guest houses near Dharamkot.
Here, you’ll be provided with lunch and a guide would be accompanying the group.
After having lunch at Dharamkot, you can walk up the distance to the Galu Devi temple or hire a cab. There is a checkpoint of the Forest Department near the temple where your luggage and your ID cards would be checked.
The trek to Triund has now begun.
After about three hours of walking, you will reach Triund Peak.
Along the way, the slope is gradual for the first few kilometres. About 2 km of the last part of the trek is of a considerably steeper gradient and moderate difficulty.
Along the way, you’ll find a number of people of different nationalities and regions on their ascent or descent.
Once at Triund, you can buy or rent a tent from any of the shops there.
Alternatively, the guide will take you to your camping spot.
There is a Rest House run by the Forest House which can be booked at Dharamshala.
But I would suggest staying in the camp to experience the real thrill once you finish the Triund trek.
Enjoy your piping hot meal and sleep in your tent.
Wake up early and enjoy the beautiful sunrise at Triund peak.
Have breakfast and head your way downhill to Dharamkot.
While going back to Dharamkot, you can take the same route or a different one through the Bhagsu waterfall which ends at Bhagsu village.
Head towards Dharamshala, you can get local buses that charge Rs. 10
Have lunch, and book a cab from the bus stop for sightseeing (HPCA Cricket Stadium, War Memorial, Tea Gardens and Kunal Pathri Mata Temple).
This will take 3-4 hours. The private cab will charge somewhere between 800 to 1000 INR
After enjoying the lush greenery around, drop by the local market.
Board a bus/cab from Dharamshala and head back home or to your next travel destination.
How to Reach Dharamshala?
As I said earlier, Dharamshala is a fairly accessible town. You can reach this hill town by train, plane, bus or a car.
However, most people visiting here for the first time tend to get confused when it comes to transportation options. Also, the nearest airport and railway station.
So let me help you with these concerns.
Dharamshala is a decently well-connected town. It is fairly easy for travelers from India and abroad to reach Dharamshala and McLeod Ganj.
Although I undertook my trip to Dharamshala and Mcleodganj from Delhi, you can reach here from any part of the world.
Here’s how you can reach Dharamshala:
Reaching Dharamshala from within Himachal
Board an HRTC (Himachal Road Transportation Corporation) bus or any normal bus directly till Dharamshala.
Reaching Dharamshala from the rest of India
You have the option of boarding a train from your nearest railway station to New Delhi and then taking a direct Delhi to Dharamshala bus.
You also have the option of boarding a flight till New Delhi and then from there boarding a flight till Ghaggal airport and finally hiring a local cab.
|The nearest airport from Dharamshala is at Ghaggal. It is at a distance of 13 kms away from the main town of Dharamshala. The nearest railway station to Dharamshala is Pathankot which is 85 kms from here.|
Even though travelling via flight is a time-saving option, it is not what I would recommend for a Dharamshala budget trip point of view.
The flights here are extremely expensive almost all around the year. You can reach here via road for far less and also enjoy the scenic view.
Reaching Dharamshala from outside India
Board an International flight till New Delhi. From there hire a cab or board a direct bus from Delhi to Dharamshala. You can book the bus in advance here.
Alternatively, you can take a train from New Delhi till Pathankot, and from there, reach Dharamshala by another bus or cab. Make sure to book the train in advance.
Solo Travel versus Group Travel: What’s Better for a Dharamshala Budget Trip ?
As inspiring as it may sound, solo travel to Dharamshala and McLeodganj can be a tad bit expensive. The fact that you’re travelling alone will put the entire responsibility of finances on yourself. This will prove especially true for accommodation and food.
However, this does not imply that an ideal Dharamshala budget trip for solo travelers is not possible. It can be done if you ensure a few things.
If travelling solo, try to book your accommodation way in advance so that you are able to avail the best deals. Also, try staying closer to the main area. This will be helpful not just from a budget point of view but a safety point of view as well.
Try reaching out to fellow solo travelers for the sake of sharing cabs. Private transport can be expensive in hilly terrains. So if your pool, it’ll prove cost-effective. Else, just avail public transport.
Lastly, eat in places where a whole meal is cheaper than mere junk food. Make sure it is hygienic.
On average, a group of 3-5 can easily pursue the Dharamshala budget trip for a very reasonable price. Since you’re not alone, you can split bills for your stay, food and internal transport.
A reasonable way is to contribute money in advance to the most credible person of the group. Transfer the money in her account before the commencement of the trip. Throughout the trip, let him/her pay.
This will save all the extra hassle.
In case you don’t pool money in advance, there are significant changes in the onus falling on only one person.
Travel Tips for Saving Money on your Dharamshala Budget Trip
Dharamshala is the kind of place that is suited for all kind of travelers. If you are a budget traveler or backpacker like me, let me share a few pointers with you.
Consider them handy tips for not only saving money but for indulging in a hassle-free travel experience.
Assuming you will be spending at least three days in Dharamshala, the budget for your trip should not exceed 8000 INR ($114.80).
Traveling off-season will help you save on accommodation, food and even flights. Everything is cheaper then.
Eat full meals
Eat whole meals for less rather than small meals for more money. A full meal will keep you full and you will end up spending less money.
Choose accommodation wisely
Choosing accommodation wisely will prove reasonable for you. You should be investing more time outside in nature than in your hotel. So no point, going for an extravagant stay options.
Dharamshala is a Himalayan gem. It is a paradise for all those who love spending time amidst nature. The air has a spiritual feel and the woods sing songs by chirping birds.
Not only is Dharamshala one of the safest places in India for travelers, but also the most welcoming. The generosity of the local people will leave an everlasting impression on you.
This is it about planning a Dharamshala budget trip for now. If you have any more suggestions or questions, feel free to post them in the comments section and they will be answered for sure.
Happy Wayfaring 🙂
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